Other than walking, using Puerto Vallarta’s public bus system is definitely the least expensive way to get around the city, and also the most interesting. There are many different routs to consider that allow tourists and locals access to some of the city’s most famous and vibrant neighborhoods (such as Emiliano Zapata, El Centro, Marina Vallarta and the Hotel Zone). That said, local buses can present many challenges, particularly for English-speaking visitors. In order to make the ride a bit less bumpy, we decided to put together this guide and provide those who are not used to getting around the city by bus with helpful information, prior to walking to the nearest bus stop.
Routes Running Through Puerto Vallarta
All bus routes that travel through Puerto Vallarta begin and finish at the same spot: Lázaro Cárdenas Park in colonia Emiliano Zapata. All of them feature the name of their route on the front of the bus, so it is easy to tell them apart. Just below the main sign, buses often feature names of important places along the route, so, for example, Marina Vallarta buses include Puerto Vallarta’s Municipal Stadium, Hotel Zone and Galerías Vallarta on the windshield. Needless to say, most names are in Spanish, so if you need some help identifying the route you have to take, ask people at bus stops, more often than not, they will be happy to assist you.
A common mistake, for example: folks attempting to reach Marina Vallarta, often hop on a bus and simply ask “Marina?” Many buses travel past the city’s Maritime Terminal (or marina, in Spanish), but this does not necessarily mean they will actually go through Marina Vallarta, and a driver may not always know whether you want to reach one or the other unless you are more specific!
At the bottom of the windscreen, buses also feature one of these two words: “Centro” (downtown) or “Tunel” (tunnel). Centro buses run through Puerto Vallarta’s El Centro neighborhood, passing landmarks such as Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, the Malecon and Hidalgo Park. Tunnel buses take the Libramiento overpass, a less-touristic route that avoids El Centro area, but can be extremely convenient if you are in a hurry to get to the other side of town. (see map below).
It is also important to notice that there are two types of city buses and you can identify them by their color: blue or green. Blue buses stay on Puerto Vallarta’s main thruway (Fco. Medina Ascencio) throughout most of their route, while green buses take Francisco Villa, heading to more local neighborhoods, such as El Pitillal. (see map below).
Thus, if you are staying at a five-star hotel in Marina Vallarta or the Hotel Zone (which are located along Francisco Medina Asencio and want to go to El Centro, you must take an inbound blue bus with the word “Centro” on its windshield.
Blue buses marked “Ixtapa,” “Juntas” or “Las Palmas,” are important routes, as they pass by Puerto Vallarta’s International Airport, whereas other blue buses may not travel that far. If you are travelling light, a bus ride to or from the airport will be much less expensive than a taxi cab, although it may take longer to reach your destination! Do not consider the bus if you have more than one suitcase to carry, particularly during rush hours.
Bus stops in Puerto Vallarta are generally pretty easy to identify as there is one at the corner of every four or five blocks and people usually raise their hands to ask the bus driver to stop so they can hop in. The bus fare is $7.50 pesos (for one-time use only) and it is highly advisable to pay the exact amount with coins because buses do not have ticket or change machines. The bus driver (who is also in charge of collecting the money) will appreciate your extra effort.
If there are no seats available once you get on the bus, make sure you stand with your feet apart facing the windows, with both hands holding the handrails—trust us, we speak from experience! Buses in Puerto Vallarta feature a button called timbre which you have to press for the driver to stop at your destination, so make sure you press the button one block before the bus stop where you want to get off, so the driver has enough time to stop.
Finally, most routes in Puerto Vallarta are in service only until 10:30 or 11:00pm, so plan accordingly.
Visiting the South Shore by Bus
The Mismaloya / Boca de Tomatlán bus departs from the corner of Basilio Badillo and Insurgentes streets in colonia Emiliano Zapata (four blocks up from Lázaro Cárdenas Park). This route runs south along Carr. 200, passing beaches such as Las Gemelas, Mismaloya, Palmares, and Boca de Tomatlán (see map below).
If you are staying at one of the hotels located in the South Shore, this is the route you want to take to reach Puerto Vallarta’s downtown area. On the other hand, since this route follows the coastline all the way to Boca de Tomatlán, it is perfect for those new to the city and looking for a very inexpensive scenic ride. Boca de Tomatlán is also the departure point for many pangas or water taxis that can take you to beaches and in the South Shore that are only reachable by boat, such as Quimixto, Las Ánimas or Yelapa. The fare for a one-way trip is $8 pesos and buses come by approximately every 20 minutes.
If you are planning on visiting El Tuito or the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, you have to take a different bus that departs from the corner of Aguacate and Venustiano Carranza streets, in colonia Emiliano Zapata. Travel time to the Botanical Gardens and El Tuito is 30 and 45 minutes, respectively. This fare is $22 pesos if your final destination is the Botanical Gardens and $30 if you are traveling all the way to El Tuito (one-way trip). Buses are not as frequent, so it is always wise to check with the driver and plan accordingly.
Going from Puerto Vallarta to Riviera Nayarit
If you are staying in Puerto Vallarta and want to visit a destination in Riviera Nayarit or vice versa, there is another bus system, locally known as ATM busses or Medina buses. These routes depart from a depot near the Municipal Stadium and only stop in town at Las Glorias Plaza (at the corner of Francia and Fco. Medina Asencio) and Walmart (across from Puerto Vallarta’s Maritime Terminal).
These buses feature destinations such as Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta de Mita and Sayulita, and the rates vary depending on your destination, usually ranging from $15 pesos (Nuevo Vallarta) to $40 pesos (Sayulita) one-way trip. Again, the schedules are not as frequent as city buses, so asking ahead for return times is always a good idea.
We hope you find this information and encourage visitors to check out the Puerto Vallarta official website for more information about transportation options in the city. City buses (at least in Vallarta) are not for everyone, but if you try them at least once, you’ll be glad to have checked off the adventure from your bucket list, and you will probably have a memorable tale or two to share with family and friends!
If you want to share your Puerto Vallarta bus ride stories with you, please comment, below.